Metro Weekly

Drag Race’s Monét X Change on winning after losing, her love of Anne Hathaway, and always being unapologetically herself

The All Stars 4 winner comes to DC Black Pride on Friday, May 24

Monét X Change — Photo: JA Photography

When Metro Weekly last caught up with Monét X Change, the New York City-based drag performer had just sashayed away as the sixth-place finisher of Rupaul’s Drag Race season 10. Monét made a splash on the show with her vibrant personality and infamous sponge dress, but it was another New York queen, Aquaria, who would be crowned the season’s winner.

Undaunted, Monét, a classically-trained vocalist, hit the post-Drag Race circuit touting a fresh dance single, “Soak It Up,” featuring friend and RPDR season 8 winner Bob the Drag Queen. These days, Drag Race queens releasing club tracks is an expected move, as the show begets more and more performers competing for their share of the spotlight. But then Monét did something unexpected. She detoured straight back to Drag Race for the fourth season of its spinoff All Stars. And she won the damn thing.

Rather, she was crowned co-winner in a tie with Trinity “The Tuck” Taylor, in one of those controversial Rupaul judging decisions that keeps social media abuzz. Of course, her victory came as no surprise to Monét, who knew what she had to do in her return to the world’s most prominent stage for drag performers. But what she might not have expected is how quickly her star would take off now that she’s been crowned the winner.

“I’m so proud to be the winner of All Stars because it was just such a crazy ride,” says Monét. “But I think my life has changed in so many ways. It’s just opening up so many doors. There’s so many things I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would ever get to do. I’m now part of a Nickelodeon cartoon, which is coming to life, and I’m in the studio currently recording for it. I did a fucking Pepsi commercial with Cardi B. Like, ‘What?’ And I also have my own weekly digital talk show starting on May 23 with celebrity guests. So all these things are happening, not just because of All Stars, but it’s because of Drag Race and RuPaul putting us on the goddamn TV screen, letting America see us, letting the world see us, and opening up opportunities that I didn’t think would ever happen in my life.”

Some of those opportunities might come at a price. It was reported that when Madonna came calling to hire Monét for a project, the queen jumped at the gig, but in the process lost her spot alongside Trinity and other queens on the Murray & Peter-produced “Haters Roast Tour.” While Monét remains tight-lipped about what really went down on the Haters Roast Tour, or even about whether she did in fact work with Madonna, she continues to travel the globe with a cast of Drag Race queens in Voss Events’ popular “Werk the World Tour.”

After a short break from that, she will be back onstage to share her talents and music at this year’s DC Black Pride, appearing at Daryl Wilson Promotion’s “Tease: The Official DC Pride Event” on Friday, May 24. And since Monét X Change is all about being “unapologetically black,” her D.C. fans are sure to soak it up.

Monét X Change — Photo: JA Photography

METRO WEEKLY: Appearing on Drag Race gives a platform to all of the queens who compete — win or lose. And being a reigning winner definitely amplifies your voice. So what is your message?

MONÉT X CHANGE: My message, that I’m very clear and vocal about, is being unapologetically yourself. In Season 10, what got me as far as it did — and what has really rung true for myself and my fans — is how unapologetically me I am, whatever that may be. Sometimes I say the wrong thing, oftentimes I wear the wrong thing, but I always do it from a very sincere and honest place. When you operate from that place, especially in two-thousand-goddamn-nineteen, where it seems like the world is literally on fire and we’re living in a dumpster, that’s what helps people want to orbit around me. And what creates staying power in this industry and in the business and in the world, is just to be unapologetically yourself. That’s what I try to be all the time, no matter how horrible it may be sometimes. I’m always myself.

You can fault someone for being themselves and saying the wrong thing, but at the end of the day, it’s who you are. And from those things, and from being yourself, you can learn, you can grow, and you can change, and you can be malleable to the things around you. But being yourself, I think, is what is a very, very constant thread in my life.

MW: You’re traveling now, but you must have seen or heard about Anne Hathaway recently on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert talking to Colbert and RuPaul about you.

MONÉT: Yes, I did! I was not watching the show that day, but on social media I was getting lots of tags. I saw one tag about it, I was like, “Oh, cool.” But I didn’t watch the video. And then, it wasn’t until later I was like, “Oh my god, I’m seeing this over and over again, this must be real, this must be true.” I watched the video — Anne Hathaway was talking about me. And let me say this, I have been a fan ever since the bitch was in “What’s up in Genovia.”

I love Anne Hathaway. I think she’s a modern-day icon. She has a gay brother who I just found out about recently, and they would often go to drag shows in Brooklyn together. So she’s not someone who is just recently down. Anne Hathaway’s been down, been going to drag shows in New York. She has always been a fan of the queer community, and drag queens, so it’s nice to see that she was such a fan of mine on Season 10.

Again, I didn’t have the best ride on Season 10. I went home in sixth place. But she was someone who recognized my star then. Even right after I got eliminated on season 10, right after our season finished, she had posted, I think, a tweet, or an Instagram feed post, about how myself, The Vixen, and someone else were so great on the season. She’s not just flapping her gums. Anne Hathaway knows my name, and she’s a fan of the sponge, and it was just a gag to see her talk about me in such a lovely way to Stephen Colbert and to Ru. I’m like, “Ru, you see? You made the right decision.”

MW: They talked about your journey — from sixth-place on Season 10 to the top of All Stars — being one thing that was really inspiring. I talked to you right after you sashayed away from season 10, and then you went, I guess, quickly into shooting All Stars 4.

MONÉT: Yeah, girl.

MW: Where did you find the confidence? Because that would be a moment where a lot of people would have been really low.

MONÉT: Well, you know, for me, I was low, but even though I was eliminated, I was still so proud of my journey on season 10. I think that I presented myself in a very nice way, in a very authentic way, unapologetically, and I think that I knew the note that I had to address. I knew that it wasn’t my acting ability or it wasn’t my ability to be good at comedy challenges or any of those things. It was simply an aesthetic thing, that Ru wanted to see more glamour. And I didn’t bring a lot of glamour in my five little suitcases. I knew fashion is something you can change quickly. You can get new clothes, you can go buy new fabric, but you can’t teach them how to be funny, you can’t teach them how to sing, you can’t do any of those things. I already had all those other things. It was just addressing the aesthetically pleasing part of my drag. Get better clothes and more fashions that really show Ru that I am glamorous and I can bring nice clothes to Drag Race.

Monét X Change

MW: On that note, it seems in the current season that maybe Vanessa Vanjie Mateo was going through that, where the judges just didn’t like what she brought. What runs through your head when you’re hearing critiques of elements that you can’t really do anything about at the time?

MONÉT: I know! For example, exactly with Vanjie, they’re like, “Please stop wearing bodysuits.” Like, bitch, that’s all she brought! You can’t send a P.A. to fucking Marshall’s and be like, “All right girl, here’s the list.” What you have is what you have. It offends me when they give girls notes like that.

And yes, there is a fabric wall — with really shitty fabric, by the way. If any girl was to wear any of that shitty fabric that they have on that wall, they would be read the house down and sent home. Immediately. So I love when they’re like, “Yeah, but there’s a whole wall of fabric.” Oh, really girl, that shit?

So you have what you have, and yeah, I know maybe there were some things she could have done to alter and change it, but she brought what she brought. She did the best that she could. And I think that Vanjie will benefit from going on an All Stars season, and people already are fucking obsessed with her and people love her, so I think that Vanjie will turn it out on All Stars if she ever decides to go back to Drag Race.

MW: How acquainted were you with Trinity Taylor, your co-winner of All Stars 4, before the season?

MONÉT: I’d never been in the same room as Trinity before All Stars. I’d never met her in person. Nothing. If Trinity and some random white lady were in a room together, I would not know who was who. I had never met Trinity before.

MW: And what’s your relationship like now?

MONÉT: She and I are friends. Immediately after the show, even after the show, we weren’t really ki-ki, ka-ka, hanging out either, you know what I mean? We filmed the show and all that was that, and then when we had to go back to get our live reactions of us watching the finale together, I think we started hanging out a little bit more. And by hanging out, I mean like, instead of zero times a month, now we go out with each other once a month. So we’re still not best friends, you know what I mean? But, yeah, we’re cool.

MW: Okay. Because I have to ask about the “Haters Roast” drag tour, and reports saying that you left for a gig with Madonna, which led to the tour producers cutting you from the tour, and then Trinity left the tour in solidarity with you. What exactly happened?

MONÉT: It was really simple. I had an opportunity for…. Actually, I don’t think I can even talk about it. Because the video hasn’t aired yet, so I can’t really speak on anything.

MW: So the project with Madonna was a music video?

MONÉT: I don’t know what it was. I have no idea!

MW: All right, got you. Moving on. On season 10, you were crowned Miss Congeniality, yet on All Stars, you played a tougher game. Did you go into All Stars thinking, “Okay, well, I was too nice before,” or, “I need to focus”?

MONÉT: No, I just think All Stars is different than the regular season. Well, not “I think it’s different,” it is different, because we get to send people home. My strategy for All Stars was not to send home the strongest person, but I definitely went in with a strategy that would best suit me to win. I think that if anyone goes to All Stars and they’re not thinking of the end game and how they can win the show, then you’re not playing right. I think All Stars lends itself more towards like a Big Brother/Survivor kind of gig. So that was my strategy, and to play as tough as I wanted to, but still being myself. In life, you can ask any of these girls who ever worked with me — I’m the jolliest, nicest, funniest, funnest person on tour with girls. That’s just me, and that’s how I was on the show, too. But keeping that in mind, I still wanted to win. So I definitely played that way and put it in my commentary how I would normally about things, and when it came down to the get down, I was definitely thinking in a more Survivor type of way of how I can rise to the top.

MW: Do you watch those shows?

MONÉT: I used to watch them back when, but haven’t in a long time. But I’m trying to get on Survivor — just to lose weight. But I want to get on fucking Survivor. Like, yes, I would die.

Monét X Change

MW: Speaking of having fun, I wanted to ask you about the Blackhole, the space-themed club night that you and Monique Heart conceived for a challenge on All Stars. I know that Naomi Smalls and Valentina’s Club 96 became a really popular meme, but the Blackhole actually seemed like the club where, personally, I would have the most fun.

MONÉT: Hello.

MW: You work in the club scene. For you, what makes a great club night?

MONÉT: A great club night for me is atmosphere, you know what I mean? When you walk into a club, you immediately know if you’re going to have a good time by the atmosphere and the presence as soon as you walk in. Is it chill? Is it fun? Do you see drag queens walking around? What do you see? And I think what made Club 96 a club that no one wanted to go to, even through the TV screen, it felt stuffy, it felt too contrived, it’s also like I would go here and I would literally hate myself after leaving.

But the Blackhole, it was fun. We had a fun vibe, and we had weird shit like alien babies, or Monique and I had these ridiculous looks. It felt fun. It felt like a good time. Even the one that won, the Beehive, I don’t think I would go. The Beehive is a place I would go if I was visiting fucking Berlin. I would be like, “Oh, I’m going to Beehive, because I heard it’s cute.” But I don’t think that’s somewhere that I would want to go every week. I think that the Blackhole is a place that people would want to go weekly.

MW: I can believe that. When we spoke after season 10, you and Monique were developing a live show together. How is Monique, and what are you guys up to?

MONÉT: Well, Monique is good. Monique is honestly one of the craziest people I know. Monique is always nuts, she just drives me crazy. But yeah, Monique is good, we’re still good, we still talk pretty often, I love Monique to death. We actually were working on a project together, but it’s just so difficult post-Drag Race trying to nail other queens down for a while because we’re all busy and trying to get this bag. We are just trying to work on projects, and soon, you know, stuff will happen, but for now, nothing as of yet. But definitely very soon.

MW: So, let’s talk about Unapologetically, your EP. I have to say, the promo video is pretty impressive. Just the production on “Ave Maria”….

MONÉT: That’s me singing by the way! A lot of people don’t know that’s me singing “Ave Maria.” They’re like, “I love the vocals you got.” I was like, “Girl, it’s me.”

MW: Would you consider singing a bass role in light opera or a full-scale opera?

MONÉT: Oh my god, I would love to sing a role in full drag as a bass. I’ve been advocating for Sarastro, Pamina’s father in Magic Flute, to be gay. I feel like it would be fierce. And you have the Queen of the Night, who is already another alien kind of mother figure. Why not have Sarastro be a full drag queen? And I hope that someone, the Met, New York City Opera, Chicago Lyric, Houston Grand, someone get us The Magic Flute with me being a drag queen, gay Sarastro.

MW: Have you recognized a lot of overlap between opera queens and drag fans?

MONÉT: Oh my god, let me say something: the opera gays love Drag Race, and they always tweet me and Instagram me and send me DMs about how they love watching Drag Race. And those who are in young artist programs, how they all get together and they watch Drag Race in whatever city they’re in. Yeah, the opera queens love drag, honey. Opera and drag are really the same thing. Opera just has bigger lashes.

MW: You’re coming here for DC Black Pride. Have you been before?

MONÉT: I have never, but I’ve heard about it. A lot of my friends from New York have gone to DC Black Pride, and talked about how fucking fierce it is, and also how cute the boys are, so I am so excited.

MW: Yeah, it’s nonstop, and the eye candy is sort of crazy.

MONÉT: Uh-huh, oh girl.

MW: Actually, Shangela was a headliner here last year. Have you kiki-ed with her about it, or do you have any idea what to expect?

MONÉT: Oh, I am looking to hear about it. That’s a good idea, I’m going to call her. I didn’t know she headlined there before. I’m doing two sets, one I’m going to do live, and the next is going to be a lip sync/dance moment, but definitely going to do some live moments. Because black folks like the music. And not just saying only black people will be there, all are welcome, all invited! But I definitely want to do something live and then just turn it out with some dance moves and just fucking drag my pussy across the stage, girl. It’ll be fun.

MW: Good, good. And we’ll hear your song “Beyoncé” maybe?

MONÉT: Yeah, of course!

MW: The party that you’re doing here is called Tease, and someone else who’s appearing at that party is Gavin Houston, who plays gay character Jeffrey Harrington on Tyler Perry’s The Haves and Have Nots. Jeffrey is dealing with a mother who is basically a homophobe, a father who is accepting, and the show portrays his struggle to be out and gay in a modern black family. With that in mind, how has your family responded to your success?

MONÉT: Oh my god, my family loves it. Because my family loves it so much, on any night during season 10 and All Stars 4, they’d have these family group chats, and they would be like, “Uh-uh! No, what? Girl, Monét, why’d you wear that ugly dress?” You know black folk don’t care. They’re like, “You know what? You deserved to be in the bottom. That was ugly.” You know, stuff like that. So they really get into it, and they really love it.

It kind of makes me so mad that I did not share this side of me with them before now. But it is what it is, and they really enjoy it. My mom loves it, and I send her pictures and videos via WhatsApp because she’s in St. Lucia. I send her little pictures or she loves to google me. And she’s googling me, really, to hear about herself. I talk about her a lot in interviews. She’ll be like, “Oh! I just love what you said about me.” But I’m like, “Uh-huh.” So it makes me really, really mad that I did not share this side of me with my family until now. But everything happens for a reason, and in the season that it’s supposed to happen, so it is what it is.

MW: Does your family ever have the opportunity to see you perform?

MONÉT: Well, my mom is going to be back up in New York in October, so hopefully. She was here this past October, but I was not doing anything in New York, so this time I’m going to make it a point to do some show in New York while she’s here. But my other family who live up here, like my aunts and my cousins, they have all been to my one-woman shows. They love it. They definitely come. My brother, he’s a 35-year-old New York City cop. He always texts me, like, “Yo, what? That was crazy, son.” He gets really into it, too. So my whole family loves it, and they’re really about Drag Race and that Monét life, and I’m very, very, very grateful to have such a supportive family.

MW: You talk a lot about wearing the wrong thing. You often wear the right thing, too. Do you work with a stylist? What’s your approach to fashion?

MONÉT: To be very honest, a lot of it comes from my assistant Patti. He’ll just randomly send me DMs in Instagram of inspo stuff, and then we’ll snowball off of that. That’s how a lot of it comes. Or, one thing at a time. Again, I love representing my blackness as much as I can in my look. And even this year for DragCon, I was randomly like, “I want a flannel gown.” So, my designer is making me a really fierce flannel gown, and I’m going to have this huge dreadlock updo with a head wrap for DragCon. It’s going to be very black, it’s going to be very cute. I’m going to have all the gold bracelets, all the gold chains. I love it. And the fact that you have a winner who is representing blackness in this way. People think I’m just doing it to be edgy or to be controversial. No, I just love looking really black, so, yeah. [Laughs.]

MW: Did you catch this year’s Met Ball red carpet?

MONÉT: Oh yes, I did. So many drag queens. Three drag queens at the Met Ball? Gag! Fierce.

MW: How would you do camp?

MONÉT: Oh, you know, that’s fun! I would definitely, especially if I knew it was the Met Ball, I would have to sit down and really, really, really, really, really think. It would be very black camp. I don’t know, something very black, that’s also very campy. But also you have to recognize that these girls were wearing designers, it wasn’t like they went to someone and said, “I want this, make this for me.” They were wearing stuff that designers gave them. Except for RuPaul. RuPaul was like, “Zaldy’s making my shit. I don’t want no Prada, I don’t want no Dolce, I’m getting my designer Zaldy.” And they’re like, okay.

But for me, I would definitely find some fierce, black designer, of which there are many, and we would collaborate on something together. I would definitely try to go the RuPaul look and go my own way, instead of having to wear a major designer. Not trying to shade these people, I’m just saying, I would try to give the opportunity for a really great designer to be seen at the Met Ball.

MW: Absolutely. You just wrapped up the “Werq the World” tour in the UK, with Aquaria and Violet and Valentina and a bunch of Drag Race queens. So what’s next?

MONÉT: After that, I come back to the States. And I’m doing Indy Pride. It’s myself, Lizzo, Blair St. Clair and another artist, we’re all doing sets. It’s a really big Pride outdoor festival in Indianapolis. It’s going to be crazy. And then I’m in Australia at the end of June. Which I’m so sad, I’m not around for New York City Pride, which is also WorldPride, which is crazy. I’m getting all of these things for New York City WorldPride, but I was like, “I’ve already committed to this Australia thing a year ago,” me being an idiot not realizing that it coincided with New York City Pride. Kinda sucks.

And I have my one-woman show, Call Me by Monét, which I’m touring, which I’m finishing up this year because I have a new one which is coming out next year. Look up on my website, you’ll find dates for my one-woman show, Call Me by Monét, which has gotten rave reviews in the UK and in America where I brought it! So watch out for it, girl. Oh, also, Bob and I are doing our “Sibling Rivalry” tour in Canada all of September.

MW: Awesome. Go teach those Canadian queens something.

MONÉT: It’s going to be really fun.

Monét X Change appears at Tease: The Official D.C. Pride Event on Friday, May 24 at Ziegfeld’s/Secrets, 1824 Half St.SW. Tickets are $25. Admission is free for DWP Party Pass holders. For more information, visit www.darylwilsondc.com.

André Hereford covers arts and entertainment for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at ahereford@metroweekly.com. Follow him on Twitter at @here4andre.

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